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A Whole Community Approach

A Whole Community Approach


‘A Whole Community Approach’ and Community Resiliency

Community resiliency is a new area of scholarship that has gained tremendous notoriety in the last few years in emergency management circles. 

The RAND Corporation defines community resiliency as “a measure of the sustained ability of a community to utilize available resources to respond to, withstand and recover from adverse situations.”

The idea that that communities are constructed of networks of people is an extremely important concept, as it pulls together notions of how emergency managers may construct disaster management plans with recovery in mind.

As scholars continue to study networks and how they’re important components to community resiliency, emergency managers will have a better understanding of how to nurture these networks within the community. But, it should be noted that this will need to be an endeavor that is constantly evaluated as societies are always evolving as they are impacted by individuals joining a community and the myriad influential factors that shape an evolving community.

Aspects of Community Resiliency

There are a couple of widely known networks within a community that can tremendously help in the recovery phase of an emergency.

Churches have been known to be excellent networks of individuals during a crisis. If someone becomes ill in a congregation, numerous people from the church will often bring the family dinners to help them through the crisis.  

CERT teams are also an important piece of community resiliency. The Ronald McDonald House is also a charity with similar ideas in mind allowing families to stay close to their seriously ill and hospitalized children while giving them the resources they need while they’re away from home dealing with their own family emergency.

Networks are incredibly important for how they can help support individuals in a community during a disaster. They are an important aspect of the recovery phase of emergency management.

FEMA Calls it a ‘Whole Community Approach’

While the academic world of emergency management has focused on community resiliency efforts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has also identified community resiliency as an important aspect of recovery.

FEMA published a booklet that highlights community resiliency and its importance to the emergency and disaster management community. FEMA calls it “a whole community approach” and lists out numerous ideas for emergency managers to work with when it comes to developing and nurturing these networks in the community. Their ideas are incredibly helpful.

FEMA presents the booklet as “a foundation for increasing individual preparedness and engaging with members of the community as vital partners in enhancing the resiliency and security of our nation through a Whole Community approach … It is intended to promote a greater understanding of the approach and to provide a strategic framework to guide all members of the emergency management community as they determine how to integrate Whole Community concepts into their daily practices.” 

The booklet ultimately gives emergency managers an idea of where to focus their efforts in nurturing already-existing networks for the recovery phase of a major emergency.

Society is Evolving

The concept that society has networks of individuals within them that can help emergency managers in the midst of a crisis is an important area of study. But, society is constantly evolving, and so will the networks in a community as outside factors continue to influence the network and as people in the network change.

That said, it will become increasingly important for emergency managers to not only contemplate how they should nurture community resiliency efforts as FEMA suggests, but to also reevaluate annually whether they need to refocus their efforts elsewhere. Ultimately, it should become another branch in emergency management planning efforts.

American Military University


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